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Arizona school counselors gear up to meet students’ emotional needs

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Students may need extra social-emotional support when Arizona schools reopen in August, and counselors are preparing to help.

“Once we can get back to school in a safe environment, I think it’s really important that we go in with a trauma-informed lens,” said Janine Menard, a member of the Arizona School Counselors Association’s board of directors and a counselor with the Tolleson Elementary School District.

She explained for some students, the coronavirus may have caused them to experience trauma, which can directly impact their ability to learn.

The trauma might come from seeing family members get COVID-19, having parents who lose their job due to the pandemic or being socially isolated for so long.

Meanwhile, other students may have experienced trauma from living in a home where domestic violence or abuse exists.

Menard said often schools are the place where students go to feel safe. But with schools being closed and many summer programs canceled, they haven’t had anywhere else to go.

“That makes all of us educators worried about what’s happening to them at home,” Menard said.

She added many students will likely also come to school with anxiety.

Students may exhibit anxiety because of changes in routine at school or fears about getting the virus from teachers or classmates.

Menard said meeting the social-emotional needs of students will be critical.

“The problem in Arizona is that not every school has a school counselor,” she said, adding we have the nation’s highest student-to-counselor ratio.

The latest numbers from the American School Counselor Association show Arizona’s student-to-counselor ratio is 905-to-1. That’s twice the national average of 430-to-1 and well above the association’s recommended ratio of 250-to-1.

“That’s going to be a big concern,” Menard said, referring to how schools will address students’ mental health needs with such a low number of school counselors in Arizona.

“I worry there will be some students who will fall through the cracks.”

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